Santander has provided £30 million to build the UK’s first university focused on digital skills.

Based in Milton Keynes, the university will aim to further strengthen Milton Keynes’ position as Europe’s leading Smart City. MK:U is being developed by Cranfield University.

Santander’s contribution is one of the biggest corporate donations to British higher education in recent years.

Alongside £10m in capital financing, Santander will contribute £20m in running costs for the first three years of MK:U’s life.

MK:U is expected to serve at least 5,000 students and be open by 2023.

“This is brilliant news. Santander’s support is a major sign of confidence in MK:U by a huge international and local employer,” said Professor Sir Peter Gregson, chief executive and vice-chancellor of Cranfield University.

“It shows that world-class businesses like Santander are crying out for career-ready, highly-skilled graduates for the digital age- providing jobs and growth in the next century.”

Santander UK CEO Nathan Bostock added: “We are delighted to be playing such a major role in the creation of MK:U.

“Santander is deeply proud of our connection to Milton Keynes, with our commitment shown by our recent investment of £150m in a world-class new headquarters here.

“MK:U will cement Milton Keynes’ growing reputation as a key national and international hub for technology and innovation.

“It will also provide a pipeline of talent and fantastic development opportunities for our staff in important areas including data science, artificial intelligence and cyber security.

“Like every industry, banking is being revolutionised by digital technology and we want to be at the forefront of this change for our customers.”

MK:U will have a strong focus on digital technologies, and will offer two-year degrees, higher apprenticeship-level qualifications, and work placements designed alongside employers.

The curriculum will include content which is delivered and designed by industry partners – in fields like artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics.

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